God and Man

God and Man

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    By Dr Margaret Lowenfeld

    Reading the discussions in this page about God and man, it has come home to me forcibly that there is something new and powerful that the child-psychologist can contribute.

    When we have something very penetrating to convey, some profound feeling we wish to evoke; we talk in symbols. The men who have died for the flag of their country and to save it from desecration by their foes have done so not for the integrity of a few yards of coloured bunting, but for the value that that bunting called to life, value that no length of words or legal argument could touch, a value that even speech cannot make entirely clear.

    It is mankind’s way, when some experience is both powerful and complex, to try and express it not in words, but in pictures, and to choose for those pictures something that is at hand for everyone. In this way we have been accustomed to talk of ‘God’ and his relation to ourselves in the picture-word of ‘Father’. Why? Many reasons have been given; may I give the one I know?

    When a delinquent child comes from the slums of our great cities to one of the big children’s centres where children who are lost are helped to find their way again, the main difficulty that faces those who would help him is that his ways are set in a pattern which to him seems self-evident. He knows nothing of another way of life and insists determinedly that no other way of life exists. To him life is so; fairness does not exist; every man’s hand is against him; the only way of living is to give back the blows you get or think you get, for, more often than not, the injuries suffered are illusory and lie in the child’s misunderstanding of the life he sees. Once one can get the child to believe that other ways of behaving are possible, the battle is nearly won; it is at any rate well begun. Before that has happened, both rewards and punishments are useless; he will interpret them in the pattern he knows, and; whichever they are, they will only go to confirm him in it.

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